Saturday, January 29, 2011
President Obama has now delivered his third state of the union speech and I found this one pretty interesting. There is no doubt that President Obama has entered back into campaign mode. What I found most interesting was how much he was trying to be a centrist leader again.
There didn't seem to be much as much energy as usual in this speech though. You could tell as you watched it that it was another speech full of feel good rhetoric and little in the way of an actual plan for the future of the country. Actions speak louder than words and all of the centrist rhetoric in the world can't erase the course you've charted with past actions. President Obama seems oblivious to the real problems facing not only this country but the entire world.
It's not that much of a surprise really. After all he doesn't really have any experience, much less a successful record, in facing these kinds of issues whether it's the recession or foreign policy. One thing we've learned in the last few years is that we needed much more than a "community organizer" full of hope and change to face the major problems that seem to be materializing and growing all over the world.
The major focus of late has no doubt been the riots and protests happening all over the world, most notably Egypt and Tunisia. I've been watching as the stories develop and wanted to take you back to Tuesday and this story from Reuters. Keep in mind this story was the same day as the State Of The Union speech.
Their complaints echo those of fellow Arabs in Tunisia: soaring food prices, a lack of jobs and authoritarian rule that usually crushes protests swiftly and with a heavy hand."
I can't help but wonder if that's the order the demands were stated in and if it was based on priority. I say that because I see the first two reasons as things we here in the U.S. are in very imminent danger of facing ourselves.
One of the great blessings we have here in our Constitution is the freedom of speech. Sure the President has the right to speak out and call Tea Party members right wing extremists or whatever other names those in disagreement with the conservative message of the Tea Party movement may choose to use, but in the end both sides are protected by the freedom of speech. Here, we stand with the protesters, but do not face the issue ourselves. More proof that our Constitution is not, and never will be, outdated.
However, now we get to the other two issues; high unemployment and "soaring" food prices. One is easy to talk about. We've had fairly high unemployment for the last couple of years and despite President Obama's best rhetoric it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Sure, he'll mention the "1 million private sector jobs created" last year, but he forgets to mention the amount of jobs lost. As an generous example let's say you lose $75.00 but then make $25.00. I know this is complicated stuff but I don't think you made 25 bucks, I think you lost $50. If job creation was more than just feel good political rhetoric than the unemployment rate would go down since more jobs = less unemployment, anybody having trouble with that one?
"The population is growing 2 percent a year and has a "youth bulge," with some 60 percent under 30 years old. Nine out of 10 jobless Egyptians are in this age group."
High youth unemployment......well it's a good thing there's nothing like that going on here.....oh, wait.
"They included calling for Mubarak to step down, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to quit, parliament to be dissolved and the formation of a national government. A union activist repeated the demands to the crowd in the square by megaphone."
A union activist?!! I'm shocked how about you? It looks like workers of the world unite isn't just a (communist) slogan anymore, it's the way we have to do our work. What's that? Oh that's right, Obama's debt commission member Andy Stern already said that. I'm sure it's no big deal so just ignore that.
"The ministry blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for rioting that took place, although the banned Islamist group has only played a bit part in the protests"
Well, now I'm relieved, if this group gains control of the country then we'll potentially have a second Iran on our hands and I'm sure that'll be fantastic. After all the people of Iran have it good don't they? Remember the protests there? Isn't it funny that President Obama and the left seemed to be more harsh talking about the tea party protests than they are when they see actual violence and riots? I'm sure it's just a coincidence so never mind.
What about high food prices? We all know that food has been on the rise lately but it has yet to really soar, the keyword there is yet. One thing we routinely take for granted here is the fact that America hasn't seen severe inflation since the 1970's. Now, that means that people in my age group and younger haven't seen heavy duty inflation our entire lives, unless of course you count the soaring housing bubble which has since burst and hurt thousands of families.
During the state of the union President Obama said, "we stand with the people of Tunisia". That's great but if they are protesting because of high unemployment, and food inflation then why are we following economic policies that are delivering those same results?
Another thing I found fascinating was President Obama speaking out against the government of Egypt shutting down the Internet and social networks. Condemn it all you want to on TV Mr. President but isn't that exactly the kind of control you want over our Internet?
I had a conversation with someone today and he claimed that the government can't shut down the Internet here because there are more providers than there are in Egypt and the government can't shut them down. This is not true.
A statement issued by Vodafone Egypt said it had been instructed to suspend services in some areas.
"Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it," it said.
Do you really think that giving President Obama control of the Internet here won't allow that statement to potentially read:
Under U.S. legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it.
Given all of the things that this administration keeps trying to tell us it has to "regulate" which really means control this sounds plausible to me. Like I said, I found it fascinating that the President is criticizing Egypt for doing the very thing he himself wants to be able to do here.
Then we have the price of oil. This story from Forbes spells it all out.
"The situation could have ripple effects worldwide if the Suez Canal becomes jeopardized or even shut down. According to Canaccord Genuity, “this may be impactful as approximately 1.8 million bb/d of oil was transported through the Suez Canal in 2009. A closure of the canal would result in an extra 6,000 miles of travel for any oil being transported out of the region, an additional cost which could drive up oil prices.”"
Now, we were already hearing fears of $5.00/gallon gas coming our way. You may remember that when oil was trading at $147/barrel the price at the pump was $4.00/gallon. If this crisis persists we could see $200+/barrel and that translates into a pump price of over $5.00/gallon. That means a $100.00 fill up for a 20-gallon tank. At a time of declining wages and the struggles average families already face this will be devastating for many of us.
Never mind how devastating that would be to so many who are already struggling due to this recession. Think about all of the businesses in this country that have to ship the stuff to the stores for us to buy. That will cause inflation in and of itself even if all of the other inflation figures prove to be wrong, (which they aren't). The price of literally everything will go up as oil does.
In closing, the state of our union is fragile and the struggles we are facing are bigger than any politician seems to have the courage to tell you. It'll take more than a charming, charismatic, feel good speech to fix the problems we must confront. I for one am sick of hearing about 25 year plans that a president has, (considering a president only serves a max of 8), and that goes for president's of the past as well.
We face very severe challenges in the near future and I fear far too many of us are falling for the same old political rhetoric that we hear from both sides all the time. Too many people are not prepared for what may be coming our way. That, I fear, is sadly the real state of our union.